Position Coach -- Mike Denbrock: Enters his second season as head coach Brian Kelly's passing game coordinator and receivers coach. Denbrock previously coached the team's tight ends (2010-11) and prior led the offensive line and tight ends under ex-head coach Tyrone Willingham (2002-04).
Established Stars: Jones and arguably Daniels. Neither is yet at that level but Jones is a three-year contributor and last fall, a top 12-level overall player. He's easily the most trusted member of the unit per the Irish staff and was undervalued by most last season, finishing tied with first-round draft pick Tyler Eifert for the team lead in receptions and edging the superstar tight end in chain-moving catches.
Daniels is blessed with NFL athleticism and might have been Notre Dame's best player on the big stage last January vs. Alabama. (Of course, you and I might have finished among that debacles top 10 merely through attendance, but I digress…)
Said offensive coordinator Chuck Martin of Daniels following the loss to the Crimson Tide: "I don't know if he knows how good he can be. We know because we have experience of seeing kids…he knows after a game like this, we're going to need him. He's got some special skills. He's an awesome kid. He's a great kid. He just needs to become the professional."
Camp Buzz: Who'll win the starting slot role? Will a slot receiver (Prosise, perhaps) earn more time in the base offense than a second tight end or dual-threat running back such as Amir Carlisle?
The Pressure is on… Daniels. For all the accolades, from fans, writers, and his offensive coordinator, he's yet to score a college touchdown. Daniels has to match Jones' day-to-day approach and focus before he can join the senior as co-main men in the passing game.
The Battle is Among… Daniel Smith, Chris Brown and C.J. Prosise. Smith is an experienced big body and near-necessity ot the offense as a perimeter blocker; Brown is a young speedster built to stretch the defense; Prosise a promising rookie slot option.
One of the three will dictate Notre Dame's chief method of offensive operation in 2013. If it's Smith, the Irish will likely be run-heavy. If it's Brown, look for Jones to move to the slot often and for the Irish to throw 35+ per game. If it's Prosise? I have no idea. Perhaps a balanced attack will emerge with his 6'2" 218-pound frame capable of making plays downfield and holding up as a blocker in space.
Wither? Will Fuller. Classmates James Onwualu and Corey Robinson got a jump on him in the August pecking order by enrolling early. One, if not two rookie wide receivers will earn varsity time this fall. Three likely will not. Fuller was my top choice per high school film reviews but there's no doubt 15 practices for the early enrollees offered a huge advantage as the team heads to Camp Shiloh.
BCS Dreams Because... Jones is a proven playmaker, Daniels is star-in-the-making, and both Brown and Prosise seem like future BCS-level starters. Throw in the senior Smith and ND has five players that should be capable of contributing on a weekly basis.
Cause for Pause: Prosise remains a theory, Brown a one-trick pony, Smith a one-skill player in the past, Daniels is the only uber-athlete among the non-freshmen, and Jones has to date been more reliable than special. And oh yeah, the starting quarterback isn't available…
Take it to the bank: Jones will spend plenty of time in the slot position this season. His versatility opens the offense to multiple looks, packages, and personnel groupings.